Offord, John de (DNB00)
OFFORD or UFFORD, JOHN de (d. 1349), chancellor and archbishop-elect of Canterbury, has erroneously been called a son of Robert de Ufford, first earl of Suffolk; in point of fact it is extremely doubtful whether there was any relationship whatever. John de Offord's own family no doubt belonged to Offord in Huntingdonshire, where in 1276 a John de Offord held the estate of Offord Dameys. Of this estate the future chancellor had custody in 1332, till the legitimate age of the heir. It is therefore probable that he was a son or grandson of the earlier John de Offord; but the only positive fact known as to his family is that he was brother of Andrew Offord [q. v.] Offord was a doctor of civil law in 1334, and was no doubt educated at Oxford or Cambridge, probably at the latter, since he is commemorated among the benefactors of the university. He became a clerk in the royal service, and on 6 Nov. 1328 was appointed a commissioner to visit the free chapel in Hastings Castle; on 26 April 1330 he received the archdeaconry of Chester, but on 10 Dec. the appointment was revoked, as the post proved to be already filled (Cal. Pat. Rolls Edward III, i. 354, 614, ii. 26). He received the prebend of Liddington, Lincoln, in 1339 and of Tottenhall, St. Paul's, on 17 Oct. 1331; other minor preferments held by Offord were the rectory of Boughton, Kent, which he had in December 1331 (Litteræ Cantuarienses, i. 416, Rolls Ser.), a canonry at Wells before 1336 (Report on Manuscripts of Wells Cathedral, p. 103), the prebends of Masham, York, from 1340 to 1348, and of Warham and Ayleston, Hereford, on 28 Jan. 1344. In January 1333 Offord was one of the commissioners appointed by the Bishop of Lincoln to inquire into the infirmity of Abbot Richard of St. Albans (Gesta Abbatum, ii. 286-6). He was at this time dean of the court of arches, London, an office which he still held in November 1333, when he was consulted by the prior of Christchurch, Canterbury (Litt. Cant. ii. 530, and in 1336, when his assistance was asked for by the dean and chapter of Wells in a suit before the papal nuncio.
Offord was constantly employed by Edward III in negotiations with the French and papal courts, for the first time on 6 Nov. 1334, when he was one of the commissioners for the renewal of the truce with France (Fœdera, ii. 898). On 26 Nov. 1335 he was made archdeacon of Ely. On 15 Nov. 1338 he was again a commissioner to treat with France, and in 1339-40 was employed on a mission to the pope to obtain a dispensation for the marriage of Hugh le Despenser (ib. ii. 1065, 1119). On 15 July 1341 Offord was once more a commissioner to treat with France, and in this capacity was ordered to attend at Aunteyn, near Toumay, on 3 Feb. 1342; later in the same year he was employed in Flanders and Brabant to conduct the negotiations with France in conjunction with Edward's allies in those quarters (ib. ii. 1168, 1185, 1191, 1196, 1199,1228). Previously to 4 Oct. 1342 Offord was appointed keeper of the privy seal, in which capacity he had on that date charge of the great seal (ib. ii. 1213). On 29 Aug. 1343 he was appointed to treat for peace before the pope, but on 29 Nov. the mission was postponed (ib. ii. 1232, 1239). On 2 Dec. Andrew Offord was despatched to the French and Roman courts to procure safe-conducts for his brother and the other commissioners who were going abroad about Easter (Mukimuth, pp. 152-3). On 11 April 1344 John Offord was made dean of Lincoln by the pope, who had been induced to confer the post on him by William Bateman, bishop of Norwich [q. v.] (ib. p. 167 ; Le Neve, ii. 32) ; he was admitted on 28 Aug. 1344, but was not installed till 11 Sept. 1345. On 3 Aug. Offord was again nominated one of the commissioners to go to the pope (Fœdera, iii. 18, 19), though from the account given by Murimuth (Chronicle, pp. 158-9) it would seem it was finally decided in a council held at London on 11 Aug. to send Offord and Sir Hugh Neville to the Roman court. They must have started immediately, for early in October despatches arrived from Offord at Avignon as to proposed ways of arranging peace (ib. p. 159). On 26 Oct. instructions were sent to Offord, who is now described as the king's secretary, to procure a dispensation for the Prince of Wales's marriage with a daughter of the Duke of Brabant (Fœdera, iii. 25). Neville returned to England at Christmas, but Offord remained at Avignon till the end of Lent, when, seeing that their negotiations would be fruitless, he and his coUeagne, William Bateman, left the papal court abruptly. Murimuth says that their departure was due to a suspicion that the proposed expedition of Luis de la Cerda to the Canary Islands was intended to be diverted against England. Offord reached England soon after Easter. At Michaelmas letters arrived from the pope, and a council, at which Offord was present, was summoned at Westminster on 16 Oct. to consider them. In the midst of the deliberations on 26 Oct. Offord was appointed chancellor, a post which for seven years previously had been held by laymen (Murimuth, p. 177). On 8 Nov. Offord was appointed to treat with the papal nuncio (Fœdera, iii. 02). On 1 July 1346 he was appointed to arrange with the merchants for loans for Edward's expedition to France (ib. iii. 84). After the death of Archbishop Stratford, Offord was papally provided to the see of Canterbury on 24 Sept. 1348. He received custody of the temporalities on 27 Nov., but before he had received the pall or consecration he died of the plague at Tottenham on 20 May 1349. He had retained the chancellorship till his death ; the seal was surrendered by his brother Andrew on 21 May (Fœdera, iii. 185). Offord was buried by night at Christchurch, Canterbury, on 7 June. Birchington describes him as a man of great eloquence and wary in counsel (Anglia Sacra, i. 42). William Dene says that at the time of his appointment to the archbishopric he was weak and paralytic, and that he owed his preferment to lavish bribery (ib. i. 118).
[Murimuth's Chronicle (Rolls Ser.); Wharton's Anglia Sacra, i. 42, 60, 1 18, 794 ; Le Neve's Fasti Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ ; Fœdera (Record ed.) ; Foss's Judges of England, iii. 473-6 ; other authorities quoted.]